Podcast 117: Leading A Growing Company With Suneera Madhani

This week we’re proud to have Suneera Madhani on the podcast.

This week we’re proud to have Suneera Madhani on the podcast. Suneera earned her stripes as a sales person going door to door, working in a seriously difficult industry. After realizing how shady the industry was, she wanted to do something about it. She tells the story of how she presented a positive change to her leadership in the full episode below, but was not listened to. What she did next was go hard on her own company, and she’s here to tell us about leading a growing company through thick and thin…

In this podcast, you’ll learn:

  • Learning the hard way Vs asking for help
  • Controlling culture through growth
  • Challenging your team with honest conversation

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Learning the hard was Vs asking for help

John Barrows: One thing I probably should do better is look at people who have been there and done it. I’m the type of guy who will try stuff out and work it out myself, but I think it’s a balance you need to find. You can’t just ask everyone how to get through everything, but where do you sit on that balance of being a trail blazer and learning from others?

Suneera Madhani: I’d say it’s a mix for me. I’m definitely blazing my own trail for sure. However, I think now that I’ve come to this size of a company and where we are, I have some really great peers and mentors. People that have had very successful exits and B2B SaaS, that just know the space and learning from their mistakes is crucial. So I do have both, I always say that I didn’t go to CEO school. I did it. This job gets harder and harder as we continue to grow, but I’m still the one leading the team. I’m still the going to be the one that’s going to take this thing to exit. I have the most incredible leadership around me.

What I do well is ask for help. What I do well is raise my hand. And what I do all is put together the right team with the right mentality. From an experience and learning standpoint, I’m always f***ing making mistakes from like all different sizes. And I’ve made very small ones and I made some really large ones, but I learned very quickly. That’s definitely something that I have. It’s you learn fast or you feel fast and you learn fast. And then also ensuring that you do have a good network to go bounce sh*t off of so you can learn from their experiences as well.

Controlling culture through growth

John Barrows: I remember going to a conference with Jack Welsh and he had asked him, Hey Jack, you talk a lot about passion. How do you instill your passion on other people? That 51st person. In front of about 1000 people, he effectively told me I was an idiot because that’s not the way you look at it. You can’t instill your passion on anybody else. You have to hire it. And so that changed my whole hiring profile and everything else. Now I hire a passion and I teach skill. But for you, what were some of the things you did early and then how are you currently working to maintain that vibe in that culture that you have?

Suneera Madhani: I think we’re going to share very similar experiences here. So first when I started this was organic. I never thought about culture as in, “this is what’s going to be our culture”. This is what I’m intentionally setting. It was just who we are, what we did. I’m artsy, our founding team and probably the first 5 or 10 of us. I mean it’s the same thing. We worked every weekend we worked all nights. I mean we rented, our office was a 200 square foot office above a bar that we were renting. And then Fast Company did a piece on us at the end of 2014 that went viral and we had to get phones installed. We’d gone through some really fun sh*t, but it took a lot of it was that it was that drive.

It was the get sh*t done attitude. That was our thing. And then as we continued to grow, we tried to ensure that we were hiring the same value-set people people. So that was something that we did intentionally. Because you’ve heard all the horror stories, we weren’t the first people experiencing growth. Every single founders talk that I went to all talked about how culture starts to disseminate post X number employee. That was a very standard thing. Thinking it’ss never going to happen to me. We have the greatest culture ever. We’ve got the greatest people ever. So we got  our first round of funding, we doubled every year. We’ve doubled in size in terms of team as well. And so going from that 10 to 20, it was fine from that 20 to 45 was great.

Challenging your team with honest conversation

Suneera Madhani: I’m kind of nervous about what’s going on. We still have so much growth ahead of us. My brother, he’s the sales and operations guy, Jock who’s our CTO, he’s our Co-Founder. Lindsey, she was head of strategy. I was leading up marketing, it was like the same. It was four different viewpoints of all time. All we do is challenge each other. I think that’s important and of course you have to learn to skillfully object to things. But if you can’t talk like that to your leadership, it’s an issue. I know our team is passionate which is why we can talk like that to each other. It shows me that we believe in what we’re doing and care about it.

There was a lot of yelling and disagreement. We would have a lot of “you’re full of sh*t conversations”, you know?

That’s a wrap. Join us next time

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